Biden on Russia's Putin: 'This Man Cannot Remain in Power'
U.S. President Joe Biden said on Saturday that Russia's leader Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power" in a fiery speech pushing the world's democracies to unite to support Ukraine, though the White House later said Biden was not calling for regime change in Moscow.
"For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power," Biden told a crowd in Warsaw after condemning Putin's month-long war in Ukraine as an assault on global freedom and security.
The comments sharply escalated conflict between Moscow and the West over its invasion of Ukraine.
But a White House official said the remarks did not represent a shift in Washington's policy that it is not seeking regime change in Russia.
Still, they came on a day of escalating rhetoric as Biden also described branded Putin a "butcher" during a meeting with refugees who have fled the war in Ukraine to the Polish capital.
"The President’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region," the White House official said. "He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change."
On Saturday, Biden said the West was united against Russia's invasion but also added that NATO was a defensive security alliance which never sought Russia's demise.
Biden's speech was delivered at Warsaw's Royal Castle before hundreds of Polish elected officials, students and U.S. embassy staff, many holding U.S., Polish and Ukrainian flags.
"The West is now stronger, more united than it has ever been," Biden said.
Calling the fight against Vladimir Putin a "new battle for freedom," Biden said Putin's desire for "absolute power" was a strategic failure for Russia and a direct challenge to a European peace that has largely prevailed since World War Two.
He borrowed the words of Polish-born Pope John Paul II and cited anti-communist Polish dissident and former president, Lech Walesa, as he warned that Putin's invasion of Ukraine threatens to bring “decades of war.”
"In this battle we need to be clear-eyed. This battle will not be won in days, or months, either,” Biden said.
The crowd of about 1,000 included some of the Ukrainian refugees who have fled for Poland and elsewhere in the midst of the brutal invasion.
“We must commit now, to be this fight for the long haul,” Biden said.